Acquired from antiquarian bookshop Les Enluminures, Paris
Date: Ca. 1490-1525
Size 27 x 20 cm.
Call number: 79 K 19
When a manuscript with a French translation of De ludo scachorum became available for acquisition in December 2007, the Koninklijke Bibliotheek recognised a one-of-a-kind opportunity. The Koninklijke Bibliotheek had already been hoping to expand its chess collection with a French translation of this popular text from the Middle Ages, but to have this very copy be available truly exceeded all expectations. The book had in fact belonged to the collection of Meindert Niemeijer (1902-1987), who donated his extensive collection of chess books to the Kingdom of the Netherlands in 1948 to be housed in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek.
In the Liber de moribus hominum et officiis nobilium sive super ludo scachorum, or simply De ludo scacchorum, the Dominican friar Jacobus de Cessolis (ca. 1250-ca. 1322) uses the game of chess to expound on morality. His 'Book of the customs of men and the duties of nobles or the Book of Chess' is an allegory based on his sermons and punctuated with pious examples in which he outlines and comments on the state of society.
This Latin work has been adapted in many different languages.
There are nine known medieval manuscripts in Dutch - of which the Koninklijke Bibliotheek owns - and three different incunables (prints dating back before 1501). The Koninklijke Bibliotheek also owns an Italian version of the text, which was copied from an incunable in 1826. This French prose translation was added in 2007.
The translation is by Jean de Vignay (c. 1284-c. 1350). He dedicated his work to Jean de France (1319-1364), earl of Normandy, who would become king of France in 1350. He must have started translating during or after 1332, the year in which the crown prince became the earl of Normandy.
This acquisition dates back to sometime in 1500. The 69 paper pages are still in the original binding. During the first half of the sixteenth century, the book was owned by French nobleman André Bérenger, lord of Gua (near Grenoble). The book later became the property of a certain Jean Blosset. Chess enthusiast Niemeijer owned the manuscript between 1933 and 1939 and it has now been reunited with the rest of his collection in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek. (EVDV)